Martin Rico Ortega
Martin Rico Ortega is Spanish by birth, but it is his wonderful paintings of Venice that people remember him for. Born in El Escorial, Madrid in 1833, Ortega's art education began at the San Fernando School in Madrid. After graduation, he further developed his skill as a painter while traveling extensively in his native Spain.
A government scholarship provided the opportunity to study in Paris. His work began to be influenced by the Barbizon School and a friendship with the French landscape painter Charles-Francois Daubigny (1817-1878). When the Franco-Prussian war erupted in 1870, Ortega returned to his native Spain.
In 1872, Ortega toured Italy with Mariano Fortuny (1838-1874), a fellow Spanish painter. Fortuny would become captivated by Morocco and Ortega would fall under the spell of Venice; both artists would become forever remembered for their love of those two locales.
By 1879, he was living permanently in Paris but spending his summers in Venice. Ortega rented a palazzo to use as studio space but spent much of his time in the open air sketching the famous architecture of Venice. He would sketch his paintings while riding in gondolas and capture his subjects in situ, one of the first Spanish artists to do so. He was able to capture Venetians as they went about their lives as few probably realized that an artist was floating along the canals capturing their activities to be included in one of his paintings.
Ortega is known to have won medals at exhibitions in Paris in 1878 and 1889. His paintings are recognizable by their bright skies illuminating the finely detailed architecture of the buildings and bridges around Venice. The people in his paintings appear naturally as if a hidden camera had been used to record their daily activities.
Martin Rico Ortega died in his beloved Venice on 13 April 1908.